By Guest Contributor Keith Chow, cross-posted from The Nerds Of Color
Earlier this week, Lucasfilm announced the addition of two more actors to the cast of Star Wars Episode VII. We do not yet know who the two relatively unknown actors — Pip Anderson, who’s British, and Crystal Clarke, who’s African American — will play in the movie, but I’m guessing their roles must be substantial enough to warrant a press release about their casting. If their characters are indeed prominent, Clarke will join John Boyega and Lupita Nyong’o in making this “the blackest Star Wars ever.”
Still, every time breaking Star Wars casting news comes across my feed, there’s always one name that I hope to see in the headlines:Ming-Na Wen.
By Arturo R. García
Former journalist and immigrant rights advocate Jose Antonio Vargas was arrested and released within the course of a day by Border Patrol officials in McAllen, Texas, where he has gone in support of the thousands of young undocumented immigrants who have made their way to the U.S. from Central America.
“I was released today because I am a low priority and not considered a threat,” Vargas told the New York Times after being released. “I would argue that the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country are not a threat either.”
By Guest Contributor Kevin Wong
The plot for Fresh off the Boat is a classic “fish out of water” scenario. Eddie (Hudson Yang) is a 12-year-old Taiwanese-American, who moves from a diverse, city neighborhood in Washington, D.C. to a mostly white, suburban neighborhood in Orlando, Florida. His family consists of two younger brothers, a grandmother, stressed out mother Jessica (Constance Wu), and flustered father Louis (Randall Park), who wants to open a successful, Western-themed barbecue restaurant. Primarily, everyone’s just trying to fit in.
Jessica, for instance, takes up rollerblading with the neighborhood Stepford wives. This has great comedic potential- how does an Asian American woman clash with the expectations of privileged, suburban society? The Stepfords, to their credit, do not view Jessica as an intruder or an undesirable in their neighborhood – more so, they view her as a curiosity to be poked and prodded. It’s a nod to a more subtle type of racism that exists in the modern world. The term “racist” does not only encompass name calling and hate crimes — it encompasses passive discrimination, positive stereotypes, and microaggressions that, accumulated over time, can be comparably damaging.
The most interesting aspect of Fresh off the Boat is how it deals with Asian American masculinity. Each Asian male character has his own way of exploring it, and they each tend to do so through the lens of another ethnic identity, rather than their own. Louis, pursues the “cowboy” archetype, in an effort to bring more white folks into his restaurant. Eddie co-opts hip hop, black culture — he’s listening to Dre’s beats, quoting Biggie’s rhymes, and repping Nas’ Illmatic on his clothes. It’s illuminating.
By Guest Contributor Kevin Wong, cross-posted from Complex
This week Bruce Lee made his HD debut on EA Sports UFC as a pre-order bonus — or, if you beat the game on Professional Difficulty, as an unlockable. The results, thankfully, are impressive. The developers have Bruce’s face and body structure down, but more importantly, they’ve captured his little mannerisms—the nervous tic where he rubs his nose, the stance when he lets loose with a signature punch or kick, and the scowl on his face when he approaches the Octagon.
UFC fighters, in their promotions of the game, have fallen over themselves to praise Bruce Lee. They speak reverently of him—he’s a childhood hero, an inspiration for how to lead one’s life, a warrior that all other fighters should aspire to. Dana White refers to him as the founder of mixed martial arts, and although this claim smacks of hyperbole, it has some merit. Bruce was someone who valued practicality over form—he disliked the traditional arts’ reliance on stances, believing that these things were too stiff, and thus, predictable. Instead, Bruce believed in Jeet Kune Do — the “Way of the Intercepting Fist.” It was a philosophy that encouraged formlessness — what was flexible and applicable in a “real life’”situation.
By Kevin Wong, cross-posted from Salon
I can’t speak for all Asian Americans, but personally, whenever I see a new Asian face on television, I panic. My blood pressure goes through the roof. There’s a vague unease and anxiety, even before the character opens his or her mouth. Because I’m ready to see yet another shticky Asian stereotype.
Some of the questions running through my mind: Is this Asian a main character? Does this Asian character have an arc? If the Asian character is a woman, does she have an Asian significant other? If the Asian character is a man, does he even have a significant other? Does this Asian man have sex, in a non-comedic fashion?
Or I worry that the Asian character is “too good” – an overcorrection for political correctness. There’s an ironic flaw to perfection – it doesn’t allow for the quirks that make a character compelling. Every American minority group has this stock, “perfect” caricature: for Asian Americans, it’s the Model Minority – the hardworking, emasculated genius. He’s the support for the protagonist, but never the protagonist himself.
By Arturo R. García
In just four days, comedian Jenny Yang’s “If Asians Said The Stuff White People Say” has amassed more than two million views on YouTube. It helps, of course, that it’s been buoyed by being on Buzzfeed. But the video is strong on its own merits, as well; it’s a sharp successor to the “Sh*t [x] Say” realm of clips because it turns up the awkwardness.
The preview image, with Yang making her eyes “rounder” as a visibly uncomfortable white guy looks on, sets the stage for her and co-star Eugene Yang’s antics, set to “Home On The Range,” inflicting a barrage of microaggressions at their companions. (“Do you have a normal name, too? Or just your white name?”)
“I just love dating white guys,” she tells one guy. “Because they’re so large and overbearing.” In another “romantic” scene, Eugene smoothly tells a white woman, “You know, I’m really into white girls. Just white girls,” only to protest, “Where you going?” as she runs.
Yang is also co-host of the Angry Asian America webseries on ISA with Phil Yu (aka AngryAsianMan) and co-produces the Asian-American comedy showcase Dis/orient/ed project, which is playing Los Angeles on July 12. Yang shared the origin of the group with Bitch Magazine last fall:
Well, when you first start out as a standup, at least for me, it feels very solitary. And so what I realized is that if I didn’t organize something with like-minded people, I wouldn’t find those people, because we’re just grinding it out on our own.
And so after I had been doing it for about a year, I had noticed the different Asian-American female comics as well as female comics and comics of color who were out doing things. So actually I had a lot of camaraderie with white female comics, but I definitely made note of when there were Asian-American female comics. So much so that I found an article about a woman named Yola Lu. Yola had just graduated from the University of Washington and was just starting out doing standup comedy, and there was this coverage of her. I was like, “Oh, this sounds like someone I want to meet.” And I literally just Google stalked her, and found her, and she was super cool, and I was like, “Hey, I just want to know what you’re doing, because I’m doing it.” And we actually ended up doing a little Skype date just to get to know one another. And we hit it off! And just half-joking at the end of that Skype chat, we were like, “Oh, wouldn’t it be great if we had enough critical mass of Asian-American female comics that we could do a whole tour of just us?” Like, someday, someday.
A few months later, she emailed me and she was like, “Jenny, remember how you were saying about that tour? I kept on thinking about it and I feel like we should just do it.” She instigated it, and we sat down and really thought about what it would look like. Then we recuited a good buddy of mine in LA, Atsuko Okatsuka. That created the initial trio of us who founded the tour.
Yang also shared more of her story in this clip from The Always Summer Project:
“I got to a point where I realized, in my professional career, in politics, which is my main career, it wasn’t really fulfilling me as much,” she said. “I kind of had this moment of like, ‘I’m a writer. I’m a performer. I need to take myself seriously, rather than dismiss it.'”
By Guest Contributor Theresa Celebran Jones, cross-posted from Hyphen Magazine
A few weeks ago, as I was putting my kids to bed, my older one, in an effort to avoid sleep, said to me, “Mommy, blonde is my favorite color of hair. I wish my hair was blonde.”
Before freaking out, I asked her why, and her reply was simple. “Blonde is the prettiest.”
I took a moment to gather myself. This was not a discussion I could have with her right before bedtime. I said to her, “I don’t really agree with that, but we can talk about it in the morning.”